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“What has he really done to help me here?” asked Wood, who supported Franken’s opponent in 2008.
Franken’s seat is considered safe for now by national Democrats, but some DFL leaders are openly concerned about how motivated their voters are, particularly in the northern half of the state. Their task is to get working-class 30- and 40-somethings — particularly in the Seventh and Eighth Congressional Districts — to understand Franken and Gov. Mark Dayton’s accomplishments and get them excited enough to vote in off-year elections where turnout tends to lean Republican.
Hard work ahead
“These races are not foregone conclusions. I like to remind people that the two guys at the top of the ticket won by recount,” said DFL Chairman Ken Martin. “We have a lot of hard work to do.”
Part of that work is reintroducing Franken — and his Washington work and accomplishments — to Minnesota.
His own campaign’s first television ads suggest that he is looking for ways to show how the issues he’s tackled affect ordinary Minnesotans. One ad features a self-avowed Republican woman who suffers from meningitis, sitting at a kitchen table talking about a bill Franken promoted that cracked down on unsafe pharmaceutical practices.
On the Iron Range, former DFL state Rep. Tom Rukavina, who is running for St. Louis County commissioner from Virginia, said he thinks Franken “will probably do just fine.”
“We depend on logging and mining for a living,” he said. “Franken’s been sensitive to that. Do I wish he was stronger about some things? Yeah. But he’s been satisfactory to me. He’s not shied away from saying he believes copper nickel mining can be done properly.”
Twenty-six-year-old Stefan Heikel is a personal care assistant and graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth but is having trouble finding work. He makes calls on Franken’s behalf in a strip mall here a few nights a week.
“He stands for young people, as a gay man he stands for me,” Heikel said, taking a stretch and Dorito break after calling voters on the Range.
What kind of reaction is he getting?
“The biggest issues are health care, still, and education,” Heikel said. “It’s mixed.”
Allison Sherry • 202-383-6120e t